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section heading icon     primers

This part of the guide highlights writing about privacy. We've selected books from our library because they've shaped debate about privacy in cyberspace, they offer particular insights, or are simply entertaining. 

It covers -

The following page offers other points of entry into the literature.

subsection heading icon    Principles & Philosophies

Ferdinand Schoeman's Philosophical Dimensions of Privacy: An Anthology (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 1984) and Privacy & Social Freedom (New York: Cambridge Uni Press 1992) offer an introduction to the philosophy of privacy in the West.

The Right to Privacy (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2000) edited by Ellen Paul & Fred Miller is an uneven but valuable collection of recent essays about principle, practice and legislation, complementing Privacy, Intimacy, and Isolation (New York: Oxford Uni Press 1992) by Julie Inness, Regulating Intimacy: A New Legal Paradigm (Princeton: Princeton Uni Press 2000) by Jean Cohen and Rights Talk - The Impoverishment of Political Discourse (New York: Free Press 1991) by Mary Ann Glendon. Commanding Right & Forbidding Wrong in Islamic Thought (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2001) by Michael Cook offers insights on privacy as a key element of Islamic law, supplemented by Wael Hallaq's Authority, Continuity and Change in Islamic Law (Cambridge: Cambridge Uni Press 2001).

Sisela Bok's Secrets: On the Ethics of Concealment & Revelation (Oxford: Oxford Uni Press 1985), Privacy & the Information Age (Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield 2001) by Serge Gutwirth and Guarding Life's Dark Secrets: Legal and Social Controls over Reputation, Propriety and Privacy (Stanford: Stanford Uni Press 2007) by Lawrence Friedman and Privacy in Peril: How We Are Sacrificing a Fundamental Right in Exchange for Security and Convenience (New York: Oxford Uni Press 2008) by James Rule are more accessible. Oscar Gandy's The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information (Boulder: Westview 1992) is unfortunately out of print but more insightful than writing by Michel Foucault and others of that ilk.

Other pointers to writing about privacy as a human right are included in the Human Rights profile elsewhere on this site.

subsection heading icon     points of reference

There is an extensive literature from the 1970s onwards regarding public versus private life and its implications.

For an introduction consult Public & Private in Thought & Practice (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1997) edited by Jeff Weintraub & Krishan Kumar and Jurgen Habermas' The Structural Transformation of the Public Sphere (Cambridge: MIT Press 1991). The five volume A History of Private Life (Cambridge: Belknap Press 1987-) under the general editorship of Philippe Aries & Georges Duby is uneven but offers insights into why privacy is contested. Patricia Boling's Privacy & the Politics of Intimate Life (Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press 1996) is a provocative analysis of some feminist positions.

Peter Ward's A History of Domestic Space: Privacy & the Canadian Home (Vancouver: Uni of British Columbia 2000) uses a smaller canvas but is strongly recommended, as is Angus McLaren's Sexual Blackmail: A Modern History (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 2002).

The latter is considered in Ill-Gotten Gains: Evasion, Blackmail, Fraud & Kindred Puzzles of the Law (Chicago: Uni of Chicago Press 1988) by Leo Katz, Blackmail: Publicity & Secrecy in Everyday Life (London: Routledge 1975) by Michael Hepworth and James Boyle's 1992 paper A Theory of Law & Information: Copyright, Spleens, Blackmail and Insider Trading. More detailed pointers are here.

subsection heading icon    Classics & Commercials

Georg Simmel's 1908 'The Secret & The Secret Society' is conveniently available in The Sociology of Georg Simmel (New York: Free Press 1985) translated by Kurt Wolff. Vance Packard's polemic The Naked Society (Harmondsworth: Penguin 1967) built on a long tradition of agitation about privacy in the US. 

Individual comments in what has become the Silent Spring of the modern privacy movement have inevitably dated. However, many of Packard's examples remain current. Particular abuses from the early sixties are reflected in criticisms by the US Federal Trade Commissioner and Communications Commission in reports noted on the preceding page of this guide. 

For recent warnings of the 'death of privacy' consult Simson Garfinkel's Database Nation: The Death of Privacy in the 21st Century (Sebastopol: O'Reilly 2000), The Soft Cage: Surveillance in America (New York: Basic Books 2003) by Christian Parenti and the less measured The End of Privacy: How Total Surveillance Is Becoming A Reality (New York: New Press 1999) by Reg Whitaker. 

Erik Larson's The Naked Consumer: How Our Private Lives Became Public Commodities (New York: Penguin 1994) updates Packard. Ellen Alderman & Caroline Kennedy The Right To Privacy (New York: Knopf 1995) uses a similar approach in exploring the US Bill of Rights through a tour of workplace privacy, bio-rights and police strip searches.

Jeffrey Rosen's The Unwanted Gaze: The Destruction of Privacy in America (New York: Random 2000) is another philosophical treatment. It's built around an argument that privacy's important because it protects us from being judged out of context in a "world of short attention spans" where isolated facts - or factoids - are mistaken for genuine knowledge. 

Barrington Moore Jr's Privacy: Studies in Social & Cultural History (Armonk: Sharpe 1984) is more insightful; Robert Ellis Smith's Ben Franklin's Web Site: Privacy & Curiosity From Plymouth Rock to the Internet (Providence: Privacy Journal 2000) is better on the US background.

Three masterful studies by Ithiel de Sola Pool are 'must read': Technologies of Freedom: On Free Speech in an Electronic Age (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1983), Technologies Without Boundaries (Cambridge: Harvard Uni Press 1990) and the prescient Politics In Wired Nations (New Brunswick: Transaction 1998). 

Simon Davies' Big Brother: Australia's Growing Web of Surveillance (Sydney: Simon & Schuster 1992) is fashionably sensationalist. We consider that it lacks depth and balance. Davies' Big Brother: Britain's Web of Surveillance & the New Technological Order (London: Pan 1996) is less impressive.

subsection heading icon    regulatory frameworks

Priscilla Regan's Legislating Privacy: Technology, Social Values & Public Policy (Chapel Hill: Uni of North Carolina Press 1995) provides a useful introduction to US legislative attempts to reconcile privacy and technology.  

Her book is lucid and insightful, touching on questions ranging from caller ID through to genetic testing.  We regard it as one of the major studies in the past two decades.

Fred Cate's Privacy in the Information Age (Washington: Brookings Institution 1997) is shorter and more narrowly-focussed.  His argument against EU-style regulation has gained the support of many US policy makers and business leaders.  

A Canadian perspective is provided by the essays in Visions of Privacy: Policy Choices for the Digital Age (Toronto: Uni of Toronto Press 1999) edited by Colin Bennett, whose discussion of the Canadian legislation in relation to international developments we noted above.

Bennett's Regulating Privacy: Data Protection & Public Policy in Europe & the United States (Ithaca: Cornell Uni Press 1992) is essential reading.

We mentioned the Electronic Privacy Information Centre (EPIC) above.  Marc Rotenberg, its Director, along with Philip Agre, edited the excellent essays in Technology & Privacy: The New Landscape (Cambridge: MIT Press 1997). They explore privacy-enhancing and privacy-eroding technologies, philosophical issues, and legislative responses in Europe and elsewhere.  

High Noon on the Electronic Frontier: Conceptual Issues In Cyberspace (Cambridge: MIT Press 1996 and here) edited by Peter Ludlow has chapters on privacy principles, network practicalities (Enemy of the State style surveillance is still some way off, with apologies to Hollywood), workplace privacy, data profiling in direct marketing, medical records and why a positive approach to privacy by business makes good sense. 

Mark Stefik's The Internet Edge: Social, Technical & Legal Challenges for a Networked World (Cambridge: MIT Press 1999) is characteristically thoughtful.

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version of December 2007
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